If you haven’t ventured into Port Gamble’s little gem of a historical museum, you’ve missed a western shores of Puget Sound educational treat. Located in the basement of the 1916 era Port Gamble General Store, the Port Gamble Historical Museum is often mistaken for the better known Sea and Shore Museum located on the upper floor of the store, even by locals.
No. Not the same at all. Follow the sidewalk and stairs outside to the back of the General Store to find the unassuming entrance of the Historical Museum. Designed in 1972 by Alec James, who designed the Royal British Museum in Victoria, Canada, the museum is not a quaint, small town operation. Its a professionally designed museum packed into a small space that showcases the 125 year plus history of the Pope And Talbot Lumber Mill and company town that it built.
Upon entering, visitors first see a recreation of the interior of the ship, Oriental, whose Captain, William C. Talbot and crew came from East Machias, Maine to settle Port Gamble. The ship creaks and groans and the porthole displays a moving ocean, enough to make one seasick if you watch it long enough. Captain Talbot’s actual ship log can be read in a glass display case in his quarters.
Recreation of the interiors of important buildings using the actual furniture, dishes and silver wear was part of the design. The lobby of the long gone Puget Sound Hotel is there complete with music from its hey day as the social gathering place. The bedroom of settlers, Cyrus and Emily Walker has been recreated using period furnishings and specially commissioned wallpaper that copied the original found in their bedroom. There is a replica of the inside of the Pope and Talbot sales office and a S’Klallam Native American dwelling, the original settlers of Port Gamble.
Display cases showcase period fans and wedding dresses, Native American baskets and tools used by the men and women who worked in the mill. There are letters, records and photographs of the non-Native men and women who settled and made Port Gamble their home.
Give yourself time when you visit. The museum, though not the multi floor bohemoth of the Royal British Museum, is a place that needs savoring. The volunteers who keep the museum running are very informative and, if you ask, will show you the back room that houses all of the archived and unlabeled artifacts that have been donated, unearthed and found in attics and crevices of the historical homes and buildings that make up Port Gamble.
Children six and under free
May 1st through September 30th: 10:00 a.m. to5 p.m seven days a week.
October 1st through April 30th: 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday/Saturday/Sunday.